Part 2: Wirt’s Restless Night

Wirt’s own sleep had been shallow that night, and even the miniscule gasp from opposite the pile of embers brought him to full consciousness.  He wheeled his eyes in that direction, careful to remain motionless as he did so, and strained to see the man through the waves of heat and swirling cinders.  He made out the motion of Jonas rolling over, and was still awake when the man’s breathing became rhythmic again.

The boy looked to the stars, knowing they would be on the move in a few hours, but he was helplessly alert.  Any other time, he might have have congratulated himself on the heightened awareness; after all, he had for some time lived a life that all but demanded it.  It had been over a year since the days of eking an existence out of dry, dusty caves or smelly sewers, eating from the leavings of others, and wishing for something – anything – to go his way for once.

He imagined Gillian then, and in spite of everything he was now feeling, he felt his spirits begin to rise.  He imagined her before him, the scent of lavender, and the suggestive way her golden hair spiraled down her shoulders to lay tantalizingly between the milky-white mounds of her breasts.  His cheeks went warm at the thought.  He remembered how she used to wink at him sometimes, an unspoken communication that usually came just after she’d dished out a bit of sass to one of the drunken patrons in Ogden’s tavern, and found himself smiling.

Wirt could recall roaming around the place, never offered anything to drink with any substance, but occasionally allowed to nip at the weaker stuff.  This had frustrated him at first.  He had been alone for some time, and he was adamant that he answered to no one and the rules didn’t apply to him.  That is, of course until Gillian had caught his eye.  After that it was enough to be allowed to watch her serve meals and drinks to Ogden’s customers.  He no longer roamed around looking for unattended mugs after that, happily resigned to maintain a fixed vantage point.

He felt a way about her that he had never felt about a female before, and found himself feeling new things whenever she was nearby.  He felt…protective.  He felt as if she belonged to him and nobody else, and every time she received an appreciative slap on her shapely backside or far-too-close looks when she bent over in a low-cut top he found himself feeling murderous.  The fact that she was more than capable of handling any drunkard herself (and usually did with a slap of her own) didn’t matter; he had been hopelessly captivated from moment one.

Wirt’s smile quickly fell into a frown, the roaming of his mind dredging other realities out to interfere with this happy one.  He saw the faces of demons all around her.  She called to him pleadingly, and helplessly he clenched his fists and ground his teeth together.  This went on for a few moments before he realized he’d been doing it and consciously allowed himself to relax.  He did the best he could to rid himself of the imagery, but now that he’d allowed it entry, it was difficult to pry loose.

He looked over to Jonas again, confident enough that he was asleep to turn and even lift his head.  He knew he owed the adventurer his life by all accounts, but he despised him all the same.  Jonas had rescued him, that was true, but had he considered his beloved?  Even as Wirt had been scooped off the ground to be carried away like a sack of potatoes, had Jonas even thought of saving Gillian?  He doubted so, and the frustration he felt over it had him on the verge of hateful retaliation.  He wasn’t sure exactly how deep his sense of honor ran as he glared at the man through the darkness.

Wirt rolled to face away from the fire and focused on his images of Gillian, especially the various curves he found so difficult to ignore these days, and brooded some more.  He had decided to be angry and allow the emotion to fester, because to do anything else would open him up to what he was truly feeling.  Something he had not allowed to enter either his mind or heart for as long as he had been alone: fear.  It was easy to mask fear with anger, and given the circumstances, he had plenty to mask with at the moment.

It had been bad enough before the fall of Tristram.  In those days he could not only occupy his mind with his budding business, but there was comfort in the resulting self-sufficiency – his future had been in his own hands.  Tristram had been safe and secure, so long as one knew one’s way around, and this little entrepreneur certainly did.  Not just a little, either.  He had shown them all what he was capable of, and had even sold some of his…acquisitions…to the hero that had entered the cathedral to face Diablo.  Fat lot of good that did, but regardless, he had showed them all not to underestimate him and that he didn’t need any of their help.  Well, he did need their coin, but that was another matter altogether, and as a child’s mind often will, his managed to overlook the details.

He’d owed Griswold his life before the fall as well, another in a stack of debts he really preferred no part of, but in this case to someone he could understand and appreciate.  The man had saved his life during the first emergence from the cathedral, back when it wasn’t even public knowledge that the soul stone was underneath it.  The boy had intended to return the favor somehow, but as far as he knew, the blacksmith had died when the hell-spawn had poured forth again.  He had watched as the man was overwhelmed, but he could hear good old Griswold still working them like metal even after Wirt had lost sight of him.

He started to feel empty then, the thoughts of Gillian and Griswold carving a cold space within him that made the boy feel restless, as though he should be doing something that he wasn’t.  He laid there a while longer, shivering despite the glowing coals at his back, and as loneliness crept in and took hold, Wirt felt tears roll off the bridge of his nose.  They were not tears of sadness of anger, though the latter of the two is what he would have blamed it on were anyone to see.  They were tears of fear, pure and simple.  Fear that any young boy finding himself alone in a world full of monsters might feel.  He hated the tears, the evidence of his weakness.  It was that hate that churned within for the next several minutes until sleep finally overtook him.


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